The Great Lakes region may not be Napa, but that doesn't mean it's completely devoid of grapes. I mean, where else did you think all that grape juice comes from? Still, the area has far more to offer than just freakishly purple Concords (which can be delicious). I recently picked up some nicely acidic Candice grapes from nearby Michigan, which I realized would cook well without completely turning into a sweet, sticky jam.
That got me thinking that roasted grapes are often served with sausages, and before I could quite realize what I had done, I had unleashed my inner Hot Doug and decided to serve everything together on a bun.
Of course, I didn't want to straight copy anything on Hot Doug's menu, but I did pull away some pointers from when I ate everything single item on menu. The main one was that I needed something to counter the sweetness of the roasted grapes; that's where a funky, salty sheep's milk cheese came in. As for the sausage, I assumed that a spicy Italian would work, but it was one step too far. Instead, I found that a mild Italian sausage, or any mild pork sausage for that matter, works much better.
Though I know I haven't quite equaled the same level of encased meat excellence of Doug Sohn, this is an honorable first try, and one that I wouldn't mind serving at a backyard grill-out.
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 cups seedless grapes
- 4 fresh mild Italian sausages (hot Italian sausages aren't recommended)
- 4 rolls (larger than hot dog buns)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 ounces sheep's milk cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cups)
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 450°F. Melt the butter in an oven safe 12-inch stainless steel skillet set over medium-low heat. Add the grapes and toss until coated in the butter. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook, stirring every five minutes or so, until grapes have burst and there is a decent amount of liquid, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then reduce heat to a bare simmer. Add the sausages and poach until a meat thermometer measures 140°F, about 10 minutes. Remove sausages from the liquid and set aside.
When grapes are done, carefully remove the skillet and set it on a burner. Turn off the oven. Wrap the buns in aluminum foil and add to the oven, so that they can warm from the residual heat. Using a strainer, remove the grapes and set aside in a bowl, leaving as much of the liquid behind as possible. Add vinegar to the skillet. Stir with a wooden spoon and simmer over medium heat until the liquid reduces by half and becomes lightly syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Brush a grill pan with canola oil and heat over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add the sausages and cook until browned on both sides, one to two minutes per side. Set aside.
Remove the buns from the oven, discard the aluminum foil, and set each on a different plate. Top each bun with a grilled sausage, a few spoonfuls of the roasted grapes, a drizzle of the reduced grape glaze, and 1/2 ounce crumbled cheese. Serve immediately.